Friday, April 16, 2021

Empower PwDs

The theme for World Disability 2018 observed today (December 3) is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”. This theme fixed by the United Nations focuses on empowering persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on global basis. World Disability Day is observed globally for coverage of empowerment goals fixed every year. In developed countries the maximum goals like inclusive education, accessible transport, reasonable accommodation in buildings, web/communication accessibility and social security etc, but underdeveloped countries have least priority for empowerment of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are catered here on charity model. The UN Convention has now been signed by 187 countries worldwide, and ratified (made legally binding) by 177. 119 countries have signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention, and 91 have ratified. India too has ratified United Nations convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007. It took 9 years to the stake holders of India to harmonize the local legislation as per UNCRPD. The Government of Nagaland has also recently notified the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2017. The major benefits extended by the new law to empower persons with disabilities include increase in the types of disabilities from existing 7 to 21 categories -14 new types of disabilities have been incorporated with special provisions for high support needs and benchmark disabilities. Other benefits include enhancement in reservation in jobs for Persons with Disabilities on horizontal basis; special provision of guardianship; grievance redressal mechanism besides provision for insurance cover for employees with disabilities. The Act also provides extended reservation in admission of PwDs in educational institutions without discrimination, their vocational training and self-employment and non-discrimination in employment. It further provides for free education of children with benchmark disabilities. It also provides speedy trial for offences under the Act by establishment of special courts, etc. Indeed the new law will not only enhance the rights and entitlements of PwDs but also provide effective mechanism for ensuring their empowerment and positive and meaningful inclusion into the society. Now a strong Act exists in our State but the need is to formulate rules and implement the RPWD Act 2017 in letter and spirit so that persons with benchmark disabilities could seek empowerment on modern lines and become completely independent. All the stakeholders including the secretary to the Government, social welfare department, commissioner disabilities, directors of social welfare department needs to organize consultations all around State to educate the persons with disabilities about the law, so that the law is used as a tool to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, which according to reports, stands at around 30,000 in Nagaland. We are aware that the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 were not properly enforced in Nagaland. And reminding of the non-enforcement of the 1995 Act, State disability rights activist and icon for PwDs, Diethono Nakhro had recently stated that the State PwDs community will not allow the RPWD Act 2017 to end like the old 1995 Act. “In the past, our voice may not have been strong and because of that people with disabilities were totally ignored and neglected. But that is no longer the case – we are here, we are proud of who we are and we know that we are equal citizens and we are fighting and going to fight for our rights. We are going to fight for children with disabilities to get quality education and the skills they need to live a full life and explore their potential. We are going to fight for accessibility in the environment and information technology, for access to quality health services and equal opportunity to employment,” she had said. Lauding the State Government for notifying the RPWD Act 2017, Diethono had, however, reminded that this is only the first step and the notification will serve no purpose unless there is strict and proper enforcement of the laws. “We are not looking for pity or charity, we don’t need that but we just want our fellow citizens and our government to ensure equal rights and opportunities that we deserve as equal citizens,” the disability activist said. Indeed the laws are simple documents, until these documents are implemented well. The stakeholders need to implement schemes formulated by the policy makers and the implantation of schemes and policies will develop persons with disabilities without waiting for charities and gifts. The PwDs does not need sympathy but rights, not charity but care.